Oct. 28, 2010
USDA adopts Cornell-developed VIVO to network scientists
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be the first federal organization to use VIVO, a Web application conceived and developed at Cornell, to create a "one-stop shop" for federal agriculture expertise and research and to enable scientists from different disciplines and locations to network and find potential collaborators.
VIVO also will make it possible to quickly identify scientific expertise to respond to an emerging pest or disease or to rapidly mobilize responses on a scientific issue, the agency said.
"Addressing the critically important agricultural issues facing the world today requires an interdisciplinary approach between scientists across the United States and around the world," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "VIVO will be an excellent way to make research more effective and help researchers forge important new collaborations that can lead to the kind of groundbreaking results that we need to help solve the problems we face today."
VIVO (short for the bioscience term in vivo) provides a powerful Web search tool for connecting researchers, funding institutions, students, administrators and others with an interest in research. A VIVO search returns not only the names of researchers but also grants and recent publications, facilities, undergraduate majors and graduate fields, and seminars and other events.
The VIVO software has been in development since 2003 by a Cornell team based in Mann Library, with assistance from librarians in five other Cornell libraries. It builds a database by drawing information from official, authoritative sources. For example, information about people's positions comes from their employers, while a listing of their published articles comes from online databases or university or library repositories. Individuals can add or modify information about themselves.
The system reads source material that is available in a standard format known as the Semantic Web, which allows computers to read text and know, for example, whether certain text represents a person, a place, an institution or an event, and how the various items are related to one another. An institution setting up a VIVO installation must devote significant effort to making data available in a compatible format, noted Jon Corson-Rikert, director of Mann Library IT services.
Originally focused on life science research, VIVO expanded to other disciplines at Cornell and is now spreading across the country. A $12.2 million grant in 2009 from the National Institutes of Health, with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), helped make a version of VIVO to span to seven institutions, with more on the way.
"Part of the significance of the USDA adopting this is that it gets the federal government involved," Corson-Rikert said, "and it extends the Obama administration's push to make the government more transparent. The original idea of VIVO was to let people at Cornell find information without having to understand the university's structure. At the USDA it's a way for scientists to find other scientists without having to know what division they're in."
USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service and Forest Service will be the first five USDA agencies to participate in VIVO. The National Agricultural Library, which is part of ARS, will host the Web application.